She rushed to the kitchen. She told herself, ‘I will get late today.’ She went to the closets beneath the kitchen countertop. She took out the big box of wheat flour and quickly kneaded the dough. Then, she went to the refrigerator and took out some vegetables and said ‘Ridge gourd for lunch box, split lentils, cabbage, salad and rice for lunch at home and then evening meal, I will think later.’ Just then Subhadra came in. She was yawning. ‘What are you doing Aunty?’ She smiled and said, ‘Making lunch dear. You know, otherwise I will get late.’ ‘Aunty, why now? You can do it later.’, Subhadra said. She was busy washing and chopping the vegetables, so, without looking at Subhadra she continued, ‘No sweetheart, if I do not do it on time, everyone will get late. And then cooking takes time.’ Subhadra did not say anything.
She put the frying pan on the the gas stove and switched on the burner. While the oil fumed, she spluttered cumin seeds, bayleaf, added the onions, spices and stirred all of them properly. Then she went ahead and put the lentils in the pressure cooker to cook after washing them thoroughly. While the lentils boiled, she added the vegetables in the cooking pot with the fried spices. When the aroma of freshly cooked vegetables started emanating, Subhadra said, ‘Wow Aunty. This sure is delectable.’ She was rushing through her chores. Without hearing what Subhadra said, she took a spoon and a bowl, served a spoonful of the vegetable curry and tasted that. She looked at Subhadra and said, ‘No no, this is not the perfect taste. My daughter will say “this is not authentic vegetable curry, you have made your style of Bengali vegetable curry”. She won’t eat it.’ Subhadra came and tasted some bit of the curry and said, ‘It’s delicious aunty. Now, you can leave it and get some rest. The curry is cooked.’ She said, ‘No no, I have to make something else for my child.’ She then hurriedly took out some eggs from the refrigerator and started preparation for egg curry. Once she was done with that, she went ahead to make ‘Chapatis’ (Indian Flat Bread). She made one chapati and said, ‘Oh no! Again these are not soft, not round.’ Then she went ahead to make another one. Subhadra came near her, took one bite of the chapati and said, ‘ These are good Aunty. Soft and nice.’ She patted Subhadra’s head and said, ‘Sweetheart, they are edible but not perfect. You should see the chapatis my mother in law makes. Soft and round. When I serve these for lunch, she will not be happy. Let me make few more and see if they turn out well.’ Just then she realized that she had not checked the lentils. She took off the lid of the pressure cooker and saw that the lentils got overcooked. She put her hand on her forehead and said, ‘What am I to do now? The lentils got overcooked. Nothing I cook comes out perfect.’ Subhadra went ahead, took a spoonful of lentils and tasted it. ‘Mmm, this is delicious Aunty. So what if it is overcooked. It tastes good. You have put in a lot of effort Aunty. Now, please get some rest. Sit somewhere or else you will have backache.’ She said, ‘No sweety. I need to do something now. Let me try and make another variety of lentils. Otherwise my husband will say, “I don’t like this. You need to learn to cook it perfectly. Because of this I had a tummy pain.” She then went to the kitchen closet, took out another variety of lentils and put them in the pressure cooker.
Subhadra put her hand on her aunty’s shoulder and said, ‘That’s okay Aunty. You have made everything. Please get some rest.’ She smiled and continued, ‘No, let me make the chapatis and the lentils, then I will go ahead and make the bed, clean the house and wash the clothes. Rest I will do in the evening.’ She laughed and continued, ‘Then my children will come from school/college and tell me “what do you do the whole day? you don’t have to do anything at home mom.”
Subhadra called out ‘Renuka!’. Groggy with sleep, Renuka came. Subhadra said, ‘Go and get my bag.’ Renuka went quickly and got Subhadra’s bag. Subhadhra took out a medicine and gave it to her ‘Aunty’ with a glass of water. ‘Here Aunty! Have this first and then you can continue with the chores.’ Aunty had the medicine and sat down on a chair. Renuka got the wheelchair and both Subhadra and Renuka made ‘Aunty’ sit on the wheel chair and took her to her room. Subhadra is a Psychiatrist. Renuka is a nurse. ‘Aunty’ has been a patient of depression and low self esteem and for the past two years now. Aunty wakes up everyday, sometimes at 2:00 a.m., sometimes at 3:00 a.m., sometimes at 1:00 a.m., just to ensure she cooks for everyone perfectly. Subhadra looked at Renuka and said, ‘If only her family had appreciated her for all she used to do for them. She wouldn’t have been here today.’